AskDefine | Define seminary

Dictionary Definition



1 a private place of education for the young
2 a theological school for training ministers or priests or rabbis

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. a theological school for the training of rabbis, priests, or ministers
  2. a private residential school for girls


Extensive Definition

A seminary or theological college is a specialized and often live-in higher education institution for the purpose of instructing students (seminarians) in philosophy, theology, spirituality and the religious life, usually in order to prepare them to become members of the clergy. The English word is taken from the Latin seminarium, translated as seed-bed. In the Occident, the term historically refers to Christian educational institutes for clergy (mostly Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, as many Protestant denominations preferred another term for their theological colleges).

History of Seminaries

The establishment of modern seminary institutions was a direct result of Roman Catholic reforms of the Counter-Reformation after the Council of Trent which insisted on the improvement of the education of clergy through the creation of seminaries as live-in institutions under the direct control of senior clergy. This later led, when literacy was not universal, to the creation of minor seminaries to educate young boys for the priesthood. The Tridentine model of seminary was one of a live in, almost monastic community where lifestyle and prayer habits were carefully monitored and corrected as a means to reforming pre-Reformation abuses among the clergy. The seminary institutions were in contrast to the freer intellectual atmosphere of the Universities. The tridentine seminaries placed great emphasis on personal discipline as well as the teaching of philosophy as a preparation for theology; an approach that was explicitly rejected by Protestant reformers such as John Calvin.
The Tridentine model of seminary has since been adopted and adapted by other Christian denominations as well as by modern American Judaism, though now in a more open fashion than the Tridentine model, and often without the Catholic emphasis on the pre-requisite study of philosophy and the Catholic requirement to live on campus within the Christian community of the seminary.

Minor Seminaries

In post-Reformation Europe, and in modern nations where literacy is not yet universal, Minor Seminaries often exist as Church-funded high schools to prepare younger boys for later entry into adult seminary education. The stated purposes of minor seminaries include ensuring a high standard of literacy, numeracy and humanities in potential students for the priesthood as well as exemplary instruction and modelling in prayer, worship and ethical behaviour. Minor seminaries are also being re-established by Traditionalist Catholics who use the Tridentine rite in the modern United States.

Formation and education

While the Tridentine seminary model was one of in-house "formation", modern seminary institutions now sometimes co-exist with theological colleges, such as in the United Kingdom, where they are the live-in college of another tertiary institution. In this case the Academic Institutions are typically called a school of theology or divinity school. They usually offer undergraduate and graduate academic degrees (such as the Bachelor of Theology, Bachelor of Sacred Theology, M.Div., Th.M., D.Min., etc.).
Bible colleges and Theological Seminaries provide a type of religious and/or academic education, including the study of religious history and theology and may also award AA, BA, MA, and Ph.D or Th.D degrees. These type of institutions can be evangelical, fundamentalist, Pentecostal, Reformed, LDS, Catholic, or multi-denominational in orientation. Institutions such as Criswell College in Dallas, Wheaton College in Illinois or Tucson Theological Seminaryhttp://americanbiblicalstudies.comin Tucson, Arizona follow this model. Such institutions may also offer lay education. Some accredited Roman Catholic seminaries have their degrees conferred by a Pontifical University and through the Vatican Congregation for Seminaries and Universities.
Although the primary purpose of a seminary is to prepare and equip candidates for religious service in the church or synagogue— congregational leadership—many people not intending to become such leaders may study in seminaries. Qualifications may be obtained majoring in chaplaincies, counseling, teaching and more academic disciplines. It is common for lay people to study in a seminary to enhance their spiritual life, to explore academic interests, or to prepare for non-ordained ministries (such as, choir directors or Sunday school teachers).
Monks, priests and nuns attend seminary to qualify for service and usually belong to a set denomination. Many Christian denominations cooperate in providing theological education for students preparing for ordination and a number of consortia or other cooperative arrangements have been established, for example in Australia there are the Melbourne and Adelaide Colleges of Divinity and the Australian College of Theology comprising a number of seminaries working together. In the United States, organizations such as American Evangelistic Association, established in 1954, ordains pastors through a seminary located in Tucson, Arizona called Tucson Theological Seminary

Accreditation and state laws

In the United States, accreditation is not required for seminaries to award religious AA, BA, MA, or Ph.D degrees. A religious degree (AA, BA, MA, or Ph.D) is valid in the United States. Institutions offering purely religious degrees are exempt from licensing requirements in many states, subject to specific rules in each state.
An historic event for seminaries in the United States occurred on Sept. 2, 2007, when Tyndale Theological Seminary won the constitutional right to practice as a seminary without state government interference. Texas Supreme Court states, “The fact that subchapter G [the relevant part of the Education Code] burdens all private postsecondary institutions does not lessen its significant, peculiar impact on religious institutions offering religious courses of study,” the court ruled. “Subchapter G requires a clear, public, instantly identifiable differentiation between a religious education that meets the Coordinating Board’s standards and one that does not: only an institution that meets those standards may call itself a seminary and its graduates associates, bachelors, masters, doctors, and the like. But setting standards for a religious education is a religious exercise for which the state lacks not only authority but competence, and those deficits are not erased simply because the state concurrently undertakes to do what it is able to do — set standards for secular educational programs. The state cannot avoid the constitutional impediments to setting substantive standards for religious education by making the standards applicable to all educational institutions, secular and religious.” The decision also cited several specific parts of the code that the court found to be unconstitutional attempts to tell a religious college how to operate. For example, the court said that the references to academic freedom were inappropriate because they were “inconsistent with a doctrinal statement like Tyndale’s that is at the core of its mission.”
Some seminaries elect to acquire accreditation in order to be recognized to award academic degrees versus religious degrees. There are several major accreditation agencies that specialize in traditional religious schools. These are the Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools, the Association for Biblical Higher Education, the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, and the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, and the American Board of Theological Institutions (ABTI). These five groups are recognized as accrediting agencies by the United States Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Seminaries founded by emerging and alternative religions are almost never approved by these agencies however, because of their non-traditional theology or religious beliefs. Accreditation is thus virtually unobtainable for many new religious schools. Others such as many Bible colleges purposely choose not to submit to the accreditation process because they believe it constitutes state interference with religious freedoms.
In Australia there are over 20 approved teaching institutions, but only the Australian College of Theology is authorised by the Australian Government to grant degrees. The advantage to the Approved Teaching Institutions is that they don't need to go through the red tape, administration that the Government legislation involves; the Australian College of Theology does this for them."

LDS Youth seminaries

The word seminary is also applied by members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to a school of religious education for youths ages 14-18 that accompanies normal secular education. The seminary education system of the LDS Church provides extensive study of theology using as texts the "standard works" of the church (Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants) throughout the school week, in addition to normal Sunday classes. The 4 courses are taught, 1 per year, on a rotating basis (the 2007-2008 curriculum follows the Old Testament and the Pearl of Great Price). Seminary students are encouraged to study each scriptural text on their own time and to memorize a total of 100 scriptural passages or "scripture mastery" verses during their participation of the four-year program. These types of seminaries schedule classes before or after regular school time, or negotiate agreed released time permits with the nearest public school districts to allow students to voluntarily leave school grounds for an allotted amount of time (usually one class period) to receive seminary education. In communities with significant LDS populations, seminary facilities are commonly built on Church-owned properties that immediately neighbor the grounds of state-owned public schools, allowing individual students to simply walk between school and seminary during their scheduled release time. These arrangements work to ease the integration of secular and religious study into a youth's school day without inappropriately (or illegally) violating the separation of church and state in secular society. In many cases, seminary is held before school. This traditionally has been referred to as "early morning seminary", but has recently been renamed "daily seminary". "Daily Seminary" is often held at a member's house or local church building. "Daily Seminary" is very common when there are not enough LDS members that attend the local school to justify building a seminary classroom. Seminary teachers for early morning seminary are called as volunteers and do not receive remuneration for their time. As of 2008, there are about 365,000 seminary students worldwide with nearly 40,000 seminary teachers.
Seminary is part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church Educational System. Many seminary graduates go on to attend Institute classes (which could be described as Seminary for college-age adults) if they do not attend Church-sponsored Universities.

Teaching seminaries

In some countries, the term seminary is also used for secular, mostly state-owned schools that train teachers. While the function of the teaching seminaries and religious seminaries is different, the terminology has not changed (compare the use of "dean" in education and the use of the term "dean" in religion). Teacher seminaries of the 19th century also employed stringent discipline and required impeccable behavior. In Nordic countries with a Lutheran state religion, there was little ambiguity, as the training of Lutheran priests was the duty of theology departments of the state universities.
When founded in the 19th century, teacher seminaries enrolled primary school graduates, but gradually the requirements were increased until, in the middle of the 20th century, the requirement was raised to high school diploma. At the same time, most teacher seminaries in the Nordic countries were incorporated into universities as part of their education colleges. Some–most notably the Seminary of Jyväskylä, Finland–formed the basis of entire universities.

Internationally noteworthy seminaries


See List of Roman Catholic Seminaries


See also

External links

seminary in Arabic: حوزة
seminary in German: Priesterseminar
seminary in Spanish: Seminario sacerdotal
seminary in Esperanto: Seminario
seminary in Persian: حوزهٔ علمیه
seminary in French: Séminaire
seminary in Indonesian: Seminari
seminary in Italian: Seminario
seminary in Hebrew: סמינר לכמרים
seminary in Latin: Seminarium
seminary in Dutch: Seminarie
seminary in Japanese: 神学校
seminary in Norwegian: Seminar (kirkelig)
seminary in Polish: Seminarium duchowne
seminary in Portuguese: Seminário
seminary in Romanian: Seminar teologic
seminary in Russian: Семинария
seminary in Slovenian: Semenišče
seminary in Finnish: Seminaari
seminary in Swedish: Teologiskt seminarium
seminary in Vietnamese: Chủng viện (Công giáo)
seminary in Yiddish: סעמינאר
seminary in Chinese: 神學院

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Bible institute, Gymnasium, Hebrew school, Latin school, Realgymnasium, Realschule, Sabbath school, Schule, Sunday school, Talmud Torah, academy, church school, college, convent school, denominational school, ecole, educational institution, escuela, grammar school, high, high school, institute, institution, intermediate school, junior high, junior high school, mesivta, middle school, parish school, parochial school, prep school, preparatory school, public school, scholastic institution, school, secondary school, senior high, senior high school, teaching institution, university, yeshiva
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